NASCAR Cup Series Is Done Racing on Dirt for the Foreseeable Future

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NASCAR Cup Series Is Done Racing on DirtIcon Sportswire - Getty Images
  • There won’t be a dirt track on the 2024 Cup schedule.

  • In October 2020, Richard Petty told Autoweek having NASCAR Cup Series racing on dirt was like “taking a professional football team and going back to play at a high school field.”

  • NASCAR raced has raced on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway since 2021.

Dirt track racing is now dust in the wind for NASCAR’s Cup Series.

NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell says there won’t be a dirt track on the 2024 Cup schedule. However, he won’t rule it out forever.

“I think we will always talk to the industry and (look at) what might be available out there,” O’Donnell says. “A lot of lessons learned, but for next year, we’re tabling it.”


Taking the series to a track built specifically for dirt racing is “something we’d look at—but not in the near future,” O’Donnell says.

O’Donnell confirmed a dirt track’s absence from Cup’s 2024 schedule after Bristol Motor Speedway president Jerry Caldwell announced the tough half-mile track’s spring race—the Food City 500—would return to its traditional concrete surface. It’s a move that’s been advocated by fans and drivers.

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Corey LaJoie works to keep his back end in line during this year’s dirt race at Bristol. Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Corey LaJoie was on stage in the Fan Zone outside the track when fans were told Bristol’s spring race wouldn’t be a dirt event next year. LaJoie said the fans who were excited were in the majority and he told them they had better support the change.

“I said, ‘You guys have to come to the race or else they’ll put ice or gravel or some sort of other funky substance on top of the race track to make it a flash in the pan,’” LaJoie says. “So, the people who are clapping, you better be here in the spring with your butt in the seat, so either the race doesn’t move somewhere else, or they don’t figure out some other substance to put on it.”

Converting the Bristol half-mile speedway to a dirt track required 2,700 dump truck loads of dirt. After the event, a huge removal operation that included power washing every grandstand seat and the suite windows was needed to get the track ready for future races. The dirt track preparation and then the cleanup took several months and was quite expensive.

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Track officials had to haul in 2,700 dump truck loads of dirt to transform Bristol Motor Speedway to a dirt track. Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

During an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s On Track, Bristol's Caldwell said the Bristol dirt track venture was “successful.”

“It created a buzz. It gave fans something to look forward to, our sport something to look forward to, trying something different,” Caldwell said. “It doesn’t have to last for a really long time for you to say that it’s successful.”

Seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty was adamantly opposed to the Bristol dirt race as soon as it was announced three years ago. He said the Cup Series had moved on from dirt racing and it was “not professional.”

In October 2020, Petty told Autoweek it was like “taking a professional football team and going back to play at a high school field.”

During the last three years, numerous drivers have voiced their opposition to it, including those with dirt track backgrounds. However, Denny Hamlin says he didn’t go to NASCAR, and he personally had no knowledge of other drivers who did, to make a request that the dirt Bristol race be removed from the schedule.

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NASCAR’s winningest driver Richard Petty is no fan of the Cup Series racing on dirt.Meg Oliphant - Getty Images

“I know for a fact, though, I spoke with people at SMI (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) or NASCAR not long after the dirt race in the spring and they thought it had run its course,” Hamlin says.

Joey Logano won Bristol’s inaugural dirt race in 2021. Kyle Busch took the second one in 2022, slipping through the Tyler Reddick-Chase Briscoe accident that occurred as they dueled for the victory on the final lap with the checkered flag in sight. Christopher Bell was the only driver with a dirt racing background to win the event, securing his victory earlier this year.

Logano, who doesn’t possess a dirt track racing background, says he never had a “strong opinion” about the Bristol spring race being on dirt.

“I think this is the best track we go to when it comes to just racing and the fan experience. It doesn’t need dirt to be a good race,” Logano says.

Cup drivers have mixed reactions regarding whether the series should race on a dirt track built strictly for that form of competition.

“We’re running asphalt cars on dirt and that’s why we’ve had issues, whether it’s mud on the windshield or the duct work and overheating,” Logano says.

Kyle Larson—winner of several prestigious dirt events including the Kings Royal, Knoxville Nationals and the Chili Bowl Nationals—adamantly opposes the Cup Series racing on dirt on any track.

However, Reddick has no problem with racing the current Cup car at a dirt track, such as Eldora Speedway.

“It’s (dirt racing) a strength of mine, especially in this Next Gen car,” Reddick says. “There’s just something that clicks pretty good with me.”

Reddick possesses the distinction of being the youngest driver to qualify for the World 100 pole at Eldora Speedway, and to win the East Bay Winter Nationals and in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.